By nine AM, Mags Davidson had been released from her imprisonment in the Ladies Room, and was back on the front line, organizing the troops. Forty-five minutes later, she and Kitty had been joined by fellow front-end manager Barbie Baxter, who had arrived three hours ahead of schedule for the weekly manager's meeting.
Barbie, tall, blonde and youthful, strolled to the front end like a pony. If Tommy's Tool Town had a doll, it would look like Barbie Baxter. Mags giggled with delight when Barbie appeared, as did Kitty, who secretly coveted some of Barbie's energy.
"She's popping Red Bull when we're not looking," Kitty complained to Mags as Barbie approached.
"No she's not, she's just young," Mags said in her friend's defense.
"I was young once," Kitty said nostalgically.
"You're still young. You just feel old. You've had a bad year. It will all be over soon," Mags said in a comforting tone.
"You believe that Mayan shit, don't you?" Kitty said, somewhat astounded.
"I wasn't talking about the end of the world, ding bat. I was talking about you becoming famous. We all know you're going to be famous, Kitty. Barbie and I are going to be your personal assistants," Mags said adoringly, and Kitty smiled.
"We'll be like Thelma and Louise, and .......... Louise," Kitty said, and Mags laughed.
"We can't have two of us named Louise," Mags said.
"We can do anything we want," Kitty said. "We'll be Thelma and Louise and Kitty."
"They die in the end," Mags reminded her.
"Right. But they meet Brad Pitt."
"Hmm," Mags said thoughtfully. "Totally worth it."
"Hey," Barbie said, as she joined the party by the front door.
"Morning," Mags said. Kitty closed her eyes and tried, unsuccessfully of course, to mentally drain Barbie's twenty-something enthusiasm.
It didn't work.
"How's it going?" Barbie asked.
"I spent almost three hours in the Ladies Room," Mags whined.
"Ugh," Barbie exclaimed. "Do you have the craps?" she asked, and Mags laughed.
"No. She broke the doorknob," Kitty explained.
"The doorknob was already broken," Mags complained.
"Uh oh," Barbie said suddenly. "Reeve."
"Why are the three of you here?" Reeve asked.
"Well, my mommy met my daddy at Dairy Queen in the seventies, and they had a date, and then another, and a few months later they got crazy in the back of a Buick," Mags explained, and Reeve Stockwell's face became very red. "That's how I got here," Mags explained. Barbie blushed, and Kitty laughed out loud. "Kitty? How about you?"
"If you speak, I'll kill you," Stockwell directed at Kitty, wearing an expression that meant business. Kitty opened her mouth, then thought better of it.
"You three are gonna put me in my grave," Reeve Stockwell complained. "Disperse."
"We need just a minute to go over the schedule and get ready for the meeting. Give us two minutes and we'll do whatever you want," Kitty offered. Reeve Stockwell shook his head and strolled away.
"You have one minute," he called over his shoulder before disappearing into aisle one.
"Never, ever tell a man you'll do whatever he wants you to do," Barbie whispered.
"Good point," Kitty agreed.
"He'll send you to that bakery," Mags warned.
"Okay, girls. Let's get down to business," Kitty suggested. "He's fun to mess with, but he's right. We have a job to do."
The three hunkered down for what amounted to five minutes. Barbie and Kitty took off to patrol the quarter mile, which was the actual size of the Tommy commune, leaving Mags to manage the herd of cashiers, which she did with efficiency and a touch of humor.
Bernice Lord waved from register 13, and Mags sighed. She knew where this was going. Bernice was not to be ignored, despite her short stature. She was adorable, and everybody loved her, but she was as predictable as Stockwell's fritter consumption.
"Hi, Mags," Bernice said, smiling her endearing smile.
"Bernice, you have the look," Mags said.
"What look?" Bernice said innocently.
"You know," Mags said.
"Can I go home?" Bernice asked.
"No, Bernice. You just got here."
"I had to ask," Bernice said. "I have a hangnail."
"I got it here," Bernice whined.
"Someone dropped a toilet on my foot last week," Mags complained.
"They let you go home," Bernice reminded her.
"Seriously?" Mags said and Bernice laughed. "Get back to work."
"Okay," Bernice said with a pout.
Mags turned away to return to her post, just as a contractor rounded the corner with four two-by-fours extending from the end of a green Tommy basket.
The timing of the universe is something that can rarely be explained. The contractor took two steps, Mags took three, and a dangerous waltz ensued. Time seemed to pause, if only for a moment, as Mags Davidson got seriously clocked, eighteen inches from where Bernice Lord stood.
Mags went down like a sack of mulch and Bernice screamed.
"Damn. That could have been me," Bernice whispered, without thinking.